Oysters 101

Oysters 101

“An oyster, that marvel of delicacy, that concentration of sapid excellence, that mouthful before all other mouthfuls, who first had faith to believe it, and courage to execute? The exterior is not persuasive”


High in zinc, potassium, and vitamins A, B-12, C and D, oysters are also a great source of cholesterol-reducing omega-3 fatty acids. A 3,5 ounce of serving of oysters(about 3 small oysters) contains 69 calories, 2,5 milligrams of fat, and . 44 milligrams of omega 3s.

There are only 5 kinds of oysters.


The oyster world seems overwhelming, but there are only five species of oysters in the world, and it’s easy to tell one from another. Here’s how:


1. ATLANTIC The ones that occur naturally from Canada all the way down the East coast and across the Gulf. Think Bluepoints, Wellfleets, Malpeques, Beausolais. Native to North America. How to spot them: Smooth shell ridges, uniform in color tear-drop shape. Generally crisper, brinier, and savory (not sweet) finish.

2. PACIFIC Most farm-raised oysters in the Pacific Northwest are Pacific oysters. They’re Native to Pacific coast of Asia and were introduced to the US from Asia in the early 1900s. How to spot them: They’ve got fluted, pointed shells that are usually rough and jagged. They’re creamy and finish with fruit or vegetal flavors.

3. KUMAMOTO This oyster used to be lumped in with Pacifics, but it was discovered that they are their own species. Introduced from Japan in 1947. How to spot them: They are small and deep, like a little cup. Everyone loves them.


4. OLYMPIAS The only oyster species native to the Pacific Northwest. Almost wiped out during the Gold Rush in San Francisco. How to spot them: Tiny — even smaller than kumamotos and more shallow — with more intense flavor. A little coppery.


5. BELONS Named after the river in France that was famous for them and also called European flats. How to spot them: They have a sharp intense metallic almost anchovy flavor that some people don’t like, and like most things that are weird and rare, they are costly. Also their flavor really lingers.


Most restaurants purchase oysters from seafood or speciality shellfish distributors, who buy the oysters from growers. No matter how the restaurants gets its oysters, make sure it has a good reputation for serving fresh, high-quality foods. Most illness contracted from eating oysters are due to mishandling rather than infected oysters.

From the time the oysters leave the farm, they should be kept 40F and refrigerated as soon as they arrive at a restaurant. Most oysters should be eaten within four to five days of leaving the water (seven at the most, if they have been consistently and appropriately refrigerated), but the best restaurants like, Ice House order only enough for a day or two, than get a fresh shipment.

Ordering raw oysters in a restaurant is a little like ordering wine. You will want to know two things: where the oysters come from and how they will taste.
How many raw oysters you order will depend on the size of the oyster and on your appetite. A good rule of thumb is six extra small oysters (shells 2 to 3 inches long) per person as an appetizer, and one or two dozen as a main course. It’s common to see customers at the Ice House Oyster Bar down a dozen and a half Fanny Bays and consider a meal.

Now that you’ve ordered, there’s the question of whether to eat them with or with out an accompaniment. Die-hards like their raw oysters completely unadorned. Good oysters eating without condiments deliver the most intense, pure, and essential qualities of the sea. If you’ve never tried an oyster without a topping give it a shot. If you want an accompaniment, what you will usually find on restaurant and oyster bar menus is a vinegar-shallot mignonette, a cocktail sauce, fresh lemon juice, or tabasco sauce and the Ice House’s beautiful mignonettes.

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